Book Review Book Review Book Review
Ferns and Fern Allies of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. By Sharon C. Yarborough and A. Michael Powell. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2002. xx + 116 pp. Illustrations, glossary, references, and index. $17.95 paper. (ISBN 0-89672-476-X)
This handy field guide treats 76 species and two sterile hybrids known from the Trans-Pecos region, which comprises the westernmost 15 counties in Texas, southwest of the Pecos fiver. This is a surprising number for such a small area, considering the climatic harshness of the region. This total represents approximately 70% of the species of ferns and allies known for the entire state and 96% of the number of species known from the area treated in Flora of the Great Plains (1986).
The authors, both respected botanists, include general and illustrated discussions of fern morphology, reproduction, and hybridization, followed by a key to families. There is also a quick one-page identification guide, using prominent features of the plant (e.g., habit, size, leaf dissection, sorus shape), to the more distinctive and common genera and species of the area. Each species is illustrated with adequate line drawings (three different artists contributed) and mapped, using a combination of shading (species of common occurrence), dots (outlying or isolated localities) and stars (unconfirmed reports). An illustrated glossary, references, and index conclude the book. The authors follow the Flora of North America North of Mexico, Vol. 1 (1993) in circumscription of families, genera, and species.
It is no surprise that the most common family in the area is Pteridaceae, the maidenhair and brake ferns, many species of which are especially adapted to arid environments. Altogether, 38 species in seven genera, half the total for the area, are members of this single family.
Ferns of the Trans-Pecos are still relatively poorly known, with 31 species rare (often two or fewer stations known within the region), or in some cases perhaps no longer extant. Many of these are cheilanthoid ferns (Cheilanthes, Notholaena, Pellaea), but three of the four known spleenworts (Asplenium), and all three fragile ferns (Cystopteris) are rare in the Trans-Pecos. This statistic suggests that further exploration will lead to the discovery of additional rarities from the region. One hopes that this book will stimulate and motivate those interested in plants to make new finds in this seriously underexplored and botanically varied area.
I recommend this book, which is as free of errors as a book can be, to professionals and amateurs alike, especially those who plan to explore this part of Texas, or to pteridophiles with a penchant for learning more about ferns. The book would also be suitable for identification of ferns from adjacent areas of New Mexico and Texas.
Alan R. Smith, University Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley.
Reprinted with permission from Great Plains Research
40 - Spring 2003 HARD Y FERN FOUNDATION QUARTERLY